Posts Tagged ‘UVM’

holding company with major jackson

April 23, 2011

I don’t know how many poets there are in Vermont. Of course the latest census didn’t shed any light on that number, though it was confirmed that there are around 625,000 folks living here: mostly white, with an older age skew than many states.

No real revelations, in other words.

When I talked to VT Arts Council Director Alex Aldrich a while back, he did verfy that Vermont has the highest number of artisans per capita of any state in the Union. If I had to guess, I’d say we’re equally endowed when it comes to gifted poets.

Yesterday I was pleased to invite one of them on the air with me for a conversation about National Poetry Month, and life in general as a poet in today’s world. Major Jackson teaches in the English Dept. UVM and he’s recently published his third volume of poetry – Holding Company. He’s also participated in the new anthology, “Crossing State Lines – An American Renga”, with 53 other poets from around the country. (NPR’s story about it is here.)

There were a lot of areas I wanted to talk about that we never got to before our time was up. Like, the process that’s underway right now at the Arts Council to select a new state poet laureate. And Vermont’s monthlong “Poetry Alive!” project underway now in Montpelier. And the poetic influences Major’s had in his long career.

We’ll save those thoughts for the next time.

We did talk about the consistent 10-line construction of every poem in “Holding Company”. They’re not renga, Major said, he had written the poems before he was asked to participate in the “Crossing State Lines” project where every contributing poet was asked to write a renga (a traditional Japanese 10-line form). A happy coincidence, then.

Major confirmed the critical concensus that his new book is the most personal of his collections; whereas the first two (“Leaving Saturn” and “Hoops”) were more driven by external inspiration. The emotional topography traversed in “Holding Company” is no less visceral and fully realized than the actual places and people we encounter in its predecessors.

Have a favorite poet or poem? Leave a comment here, and keep on supporting our local poets – this is VT so they’re probably also one of your neighbors or friends or coworkers.

the new old place

May 30, 2010

Jeremy Hill

Destination: Monty’s Old Brick Tavern in Williston

Purpose: Check out the place under its new ownership and enjoy a sweet Sunday afternoon of music with Ray Vega (trumpet/fluglehorn), Jeremy Hill (bass) and Joe Capps (guitar).

Monty’s reopened as Monty’s around a year ago, after two or so years being run as the breakfast-and-lunch only “Old Brick Café”. A couple of unremarkable experiences there under its former name were enough to keep me away for a while, and I hadn’t made it back in there until today. Glad I did.

It was a little on the early side for dinner, so a glass of Malbec and a couple of selections from the $3 appetizer menu just hit the spot. The mini flatbread was deliciously crisp and melty and very hot when delivered, while the hummus plate offered a generous selection of raw vegetables, perfectly firm kalamata olives, and pita corners. The rounded scoop of hummus in the middle of the plate had good flavor though it was crumbly and served fridge-cold. OK, not great. However, as a BIG contrast to previous experiences there, the service was timely, attentive, and very pleasant.

Musically, too, Monty’s has come into its own in supporting local music including the Sunday afternoon jazz series. Today’s lineup was Ray Vega (trumpet/fluglehorn), Joe Capps, guitar, and bassist Jeremy Hill. They swung through classics including Bye Bye Blackbird, and Things Ain’t What They Used To Be in a leisurely first set that made a lovely accompaniment to the incoming fading sunlight from late afternoon into early evening.

These are all players you’ll have a chance to see again (in different ensemble pairings) over the next couple of weeks as the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival gets into full swing downtown. Look for them, you’ll love the music. And when you’re ready to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon of music and good food, I recommend taking a little drive outside of Burlington (maybe on a Sunday afternoon?) and visiting Monty’s.

krishna avatar

February 5, 2010

Many options for interesting entertainment this weekend, including Krishna Avatar. UVM’s Friends of Indian Music and Dance are sponsoring an evening of Indian storytelling and music with a troupe of 15 performers acting out stories from the life of the Krishna. (The FIMD, you may recall, are the same folks who brought us one of the best and most memorable concerts last year, with the master musicians Debashish and Subhasis Bhattacharya…)

Where: UVM Music Department Recital Hall (Redstone Campus)

When: Tomorrow (Sat.) night, 7pm

Tickets: Available at the door, $10 General admission or $5 for students & FIMD members – open seating

painted word poetry series

October 28, 2009
Antonello Borra (r) and his translator, Dr. Blossom Kirchenbaum

Drs. Kirchenbaum (l) and Borra (r)

Tonight held the second of three poetry events planned at the Fleming Museum this fall. The first was on September 30th (with Sue Burton & David Cavanagh) and the next one is coming up on November 18th (featuring readings by Caroline Knox, Dorothea Lasky, and Dara Wier).

The Painted Word Poetry Series guests for this evening’s readings were Jill Leininger, a former poetry resident at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, and UVM Assoc. Professor of Italian Antonello Borra with his translator Dr. Blossom Kirchenbaum.

The poems ranged from reflective and deeply personal (Leininger) to offbeat and whimsical (Borra, in animated renderings  from his new collection Bestiario) with a lot of emotional and descriptive ground covered between the two styles.

Leininger opened her reading with a short, wincing account of the recent loss of all of the poems she had been working on for her second book. “Mac meltdown” was the description of the incident, and as a result the verse she shared all came from her first manuscript.

Inspiration can come from surprising places. Once Leininger’s considerable loss is a little less fresh, it occurred to me that as much as it wiped out the material for her second book , perhaps if she’s able to redirect that emotional energy the incident could also prove to be a fertile springboard for new poems.

well versed

October 17, 2009
Dan Fogel with Jean-Pierre Roy's painting

Dan Fogel with Jean-Pierre Roy's painting

The current Firehouse Gallery exhibit “human = landscape” is one manifestation of  The Energy Project, a collaborative effort to explores the relationship between people and the world we live in: the natural world, and the landscape we’ve created to sustain and support ourselves.

So, what does that really mean.  

It means futuristic paintings of nature reclaiming the world, water and vines thriving in humanity’s ruined structures in the wake of some unnamed calamity (very “Logan’s Run” in their look and feel). It means discussions, installations, photographic essays and partnerships with other regional organizations to engage the community simultaneously on scientific and artistic levels.

This past Thursday night it also meant poetry.

Seven local and regional poets were invited to the second floor of the Firehouse to read their own work and share the verse of other poets on themes of natural phenomena, and human intervention in the natural world. The gathering was the inspiration of UVM President Dan Fogel, a poet, English literature scholar, and the husband of Firehouse board member Rachel Kahn-Fogel. His introduction to the event drew an elegant parallel between the Industrial Revolution and the writings of Romantic poets Keats, Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth and Coleridge. Later in the evening against the backdrop of a large dystopian Jean-Pierre Roy landscape, Fogel concluded his reading with Percy Shelley’s evocative Ode to the West Wind.

Other readings came from Irish poet Angela Patten; Antonello Borra (UVM Italian professor); Daniel Lusk; Isaac Cates (who began with an inspired reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73…see below); and UVM Spanish professor Tina Escaja in a dual presentation with translator Helen Wagg.

This isn’t the kind of event that’s conceived to present solutions or a thorough scientific examination of the topic at hand. But, as always with the artist’s special charge in the world to observe and interpret life’s offerings, the words and thoughts carefully shaped and shared in the human = landscape poetry reading provided something equally intellectual and certainly as meaningful as any technical discourse: perspective.

(The Human = Landscape exhibit is open through October 24th at Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery.)

~ ~ ~

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

BDJ Festival, day 2: rock, paper, scissors

June 8, 2009
a Firehouse floor socket, only one in the whole place that was empty!

a Firehouse floor socket, only one in the whole place that was empty!

Yesterday evening’s performance at Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery was just the kind of thing I usually try to seek out at the Discover Jazz festival: the unusual performances that define the edges of the art, as much as the headliners aim squarely for the populist center. A complete festival needs (and attracts) both kinds of experiences.

A few days ago I found out banjo legend Paul Metzger was coming to town. While not technically an event sponsored by the Discover Jazz Festival, his appearance in Burlington was timed perfectly to offer that alternative musical performance perspective. He’s touring with with Elaine Evans (amplified violin and pocket trumpet), Amen Dunes (guitar/vocals), the Paper Hats (self-described “experimentalists”) and Eric Carbonara, who plays fine flamenco-style acoustic guitar and an unusual guitar/sitar hybrid called a “Chaturangui”.  They each played an individual set, and the order of performances was decided in the back of the room just before the music started. It was a very involved process: a heated bout of rock/paper/scissors. (Those crazy experimental musicians!)

Paul doesn’t have the high profile of other banjo greats – folks like Bela Fleck and Earl Scruggs – though it’s a safe bet they sure know who he is. He doesn’t seem to be too bothered with all of that. I talked with him a little before the show and I got the feeling that the mainstream isn’t where an artist like him can operate, and still have the latitude they need to to develop their vision. Paul’s career has been defined by breaking every banjo rule and rediscovering the instrument from the ground up, including how it’s played, and expectations of how it “should” sound.

Paul tuning his modified banjo

Paul tuning his modified banjo

While Paul is reinventing an established instrument, guitarist Eric Carbonara is exploring new realms with a recently invented one. He helped design the instrument with his teacher, Indian slide guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya. The “Chaturangui” fuses an acoustic guitar and a sitar onto a single body and sounds like an entire metallic orchestra of guitars and sitars all playing simultaneously. The sound is big, and impressive. On the way home last night I listened to one of Eric’s CDs I had picked up at the show. It contains two tracks: each is over 10 min. long, unfolding and developing patiently, building in complexity, much like ragas in their form and feel. Loved it.

Eric and the Chaturangui

Eric and the Chaturanguia

The concert reminded me of something I read recently in Kyle Gann’s excellent collection of essays on contemporary music, Music Downtown: “Music is a language to the extent that it has syntax, rules that govern its continuation, a level of predictability with which events happen. But that’s the formulaic, ‘yang’ side of music. Rules don’t govern everything, and some passages take even the composer by surprise. In the hullaballoo about language, music’s less describable side – image – has suffered neglect, in both composition and discourse.”

Last night’s show was all about that side: music’s capacity to evoke images, expressed vividly through the unique language of experimentalism.

Earlier in the day, for some non-jazz festival music, I had stopped by the Fleming Museum to hear organist David Neiweem’s recital on UVM’s 4-stop portative organ in the Museum’s interior Marble Courtyard. It’s a 2001 model, by Dutch builder Henk Klop. The performance was part of the Museum’s new exhibit “A Beckoning Country“, a celebration of art from the Champlain Valley to coincide with the region’s Quadricentennial celebrations this year.

David’s program featured music from the time of Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who arrived in the area from Québec City and mapped the Lake region in 1609. Who was writing music around that time? Girolamo Frescobaldi and John Blow were. So were Samuel Scheidt, Michele Corrette, and, J.S. Bach. What an interesting idea for a program.

David Neiweem at the Fleming

David Neiweem at the Fleming

Scheidt’s partita on Martin Luther’s Easter chorale Christ lag in Todesbanden was especially lovely, as the light voice of the portative spoke in airy contrast to the weightiness of the chorale.

What a great day of diverse music!

the week, past and future

May 30, 2009
Rupa Marya (of 'Rupa & The Aprilfishes')

Rupa Marya (of 'Rupa & The Aprilfishes')

I’m listening to New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins right now sharing his favorite BBQ recipes, on The Splendid Table. His band’s called The BBQ Swingers, and he’s known for setting up a grill near the stage to encourage spontaneous acts of audience participation in charred food. No bottles and cans allowed in the park, but what about ribs & slaw? Sounds great to me!

Seems like there’s been a lot of music in the news recently:

  • This morning NPR recognized Benny Goodman’s 100th birthday anniversary – including some discussion with Anat Cohen, who’s transcribing many of Benny’s solos AND appearing at this year’s Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, later this week. (More on that in a minute).
  • NPR arts reporter and producer Felix Contreras shared an overview of today’s new Latin music scene, by way of three new releases: Luz del Ritmo, from Argentina’s Los Fabulosos Cadillacs; Coba Coba, from the Afro-Peruvian groovemasters Novalima; and the lead singer from Yerba Buena, CuCu Diamantes’ debut solo effort CuCu Land , singing in a Dominican-flavored vernacular she calls “urban tropical”
  • About a week ago Fresh Air reprised an interview with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, engineers of the distinct ‘Philly sound’ with classics like If You Don’t Know Me By Now
  • On The Story, Dick Gordon talked to Rupa Marya about the music that lives at the intersection of her two professions: as a singer/songwriter, and medical doctor
  • …and a couple of days ago I when woke up to BBC World Update I heard a really interesting story about a cellist and his ventures into experimental music. I wasn’t able to find more info about it at the BBC site. Too bad, I wanted to share the link here. Maybe you’ll have better luck – look for it in the BBC World Update on Thursday (5/28) morning.

Taking a look ahead, it’s going to be a really busy week with all of the music coming up around town. Monday promises my first experience on the Green at Shelburne Museum, with

Byrne's tour poster

Byrne's tour poster

David Byrne. The program description says “songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno”, and that probably means a generous dose of music from their new collaboration, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Is it too much to hope that we might also get the rare treat of hearing some things (“the Jezebel Spirit” – please? Please!?) from some of their earlier work together, like the landmark electro-adventure, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts?

On Thursday evening, after the opening reception for the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, I’ll be hurrying over to UVM to catch the debut concert with trumpeter Ray Vega and his new Jazz Ensemble.

And Friday, well, that’s the start of the blur of sounds and experiences that typically characterize the time during the annual Discover Jazz Festival. As much as I usually know what I’ll be seeing and doing during the Festival, there’s often just as much that happens unexpectedly. Some of the most memorable encounters in past festivals have been the ones that weren’t planned. Like last year’s spontaneous jam session on Church Street, which started with a couple of players and picked up momentum with more and more folks stopping by, onlookers stepping aside to make way for the multiplying empty cases and trunks that accumulated in a cluttered ring around the jam. They made some noise that day!

The planned parts this week include the double-bill with Esperanza Spalding and Anat Cohen on Friday night, lots of live music and bands on Church Street and in City Park; Big Joe Burrell Day; and Belizbeha & the Country Horns next Saturday.

Stay tuned, updates coming here through the week. And by all means leave a comment here if you’re inspired to mention your own experiences or thoughts about live music this summer.

We’re just getting started, you know.


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